The Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address: Soliloquy and Thoughts Aloud ( Part 2)
2020年施政報告 – 喃喃自語？自問自答？(下篇)
The Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address: Soliloquy and Thoughts Aloud (Part 2)
Michael Wong Wai Yu, Honorary Executive Secretary, HKAHSS
21 December 2020
Part 1 on the same topic was released on 10 December 2020 and it can be accessed at:
Question 1: What do you think of the Chief Executive’s comments in the Policy Address 2020 on ‘incompetent’ teachers who are failing their students and thus misleading and causing them harm?
In Para 157, the Chief Executive stated ‘… We will also strengthen the training of teachers and principals upon their appointment, during their service and before their promotion. The EDB will take stringent actions against teachers who are incompetent or found misconducted, including cancelling the registration of those who are found seriously misconducted, for the well-being of students’.
I believe that this is the most severe reprimand of the education sector by the Chief Executive in the history of Hong Kong. While it is indeed frustrating and heart-wrenching if there are a very few amongst the strong teaching force (more than 57,000 teachers) who might be incompetent or found misconducted, we have never heard such a severe criticism raised in the Policy Address before.
If the Chief Executive made this comment with reference to those teachers who might try the law because of their differing political stances or those who preach their personal political orientations to minors and thus not taking good care of students’ healthy development, this could be understood. However, only two teachers have been deregistered so far. Why is it necessary for the Chief Executive to keep such a high profile and inflict such a severe comment in her Policy Address? We cannot help asking the reasons behind, the appropriateness of EDB’s handling of the cases and whether its decision is well supported by the education sector. By bundling the two cases with the whole teaching force, the impact itself is much even greater than the severe criticism. What is the Chief Executive’s justification for her proposed measures related to teacher training in the different periods upon appointment, during service and before promotion?
No one will argue against the importance of teachers’ continuous professional development. However, if the proposed training is related to only a few incompetent teachers who are failing their students, this is a humiliation and great blow to the teaching force, members of which have been serving with much diligence and dedication all along. This will greatly tarnish and slander their reputation and professional status. At the same time, this will certainly undermine parents’ and students’ trust on teachers. The worst of all, and which we really do not hope to see, is the waves of teachers’ resignation and promising young people choosing not to join the teaching profession because of this.
Question 2: What do you think of the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme?
I would like to share on this issue from a macro level, and not to mention whether Hong Kong will be ‘delivered’ by the Greater Bay Area.
- While basically it is good for young people to leave Hong Kong to broaden their horizons, there are practical issues to consider. According to the Policy Address, the scheme will provide 2,000 positions, the monthly salary of each is at least HK$18,000 including a HK$10,000 subsidy by the government, with the longest contract period of 18 months. Whether the terms are attractive or not really depends on individuals. However, participants need to consider many issues such as the work nature, salary package and lives after the period of 18 months. Is the period sufficient for them to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to continue living and working in the Greater Bay Area?
- For better integration into the Greater Bay Area, young people need to consider carefully how to accommodate and adjust to the differences in culture, social conditions and way of life.
- With their departure from Hong Kong, would their family ties be loosened and hard to maintain?
- If young people are well adjusted to the life in Greater Bay Area and will not return to Hong Kong, this will aggravate the problems arising from the ageing population in Hong Kong as the annual population growth rate is less than 1% in the recent years.
Question 3: The Chief Executive also mentioned in her Policy Address those young people who were arrested and charged due to their participation in the social incidents, what are your views on this?
It is beyond doubt that every citizen should be law-abiding. That is why whenever there are suggestions on granting leniency to young convicts, there are objections lest they should be harmfully indulged.
While I agree that those who have breached the law should bear the legal consequences, we have to consider the essence of education, which should not be renounced too easily – love. This reminds me of an episode related to a Chinese educationist in the early 20thCentury China – Mr. Xia Mian Zun (夏丏尊). In 1921, he was invited by Jing Heng I (經亨頤) who was also an educationist and the school principal of Chun Hui Secondary School (春暉中學) in Zhejiang Province (浙江省) to teach in the school. During Xia’s service in Chun Hui, he conducted a research on books on education and came to read the Japanese translated version of Cuore. He was much moved and cried for 3 days. He realized that education in China lacked moral sentiment. He therefore translated the Chinese version of the book (愛的教育) , which turned out to a very popular reader for all walks.
While it is teachers’ duty to discipline students, we should never make them feel abandoned. Those who are sentenced with imprisonment due to their participation in the social incidents have already lost their school life. They will face even greater challenges after their release. How can they integrate into society? Would we like to see them, who might have been heavily inflicted emotionally, bear the grudges against others and society for life? As their number is not too small, this will become a piercing sore crippling social harmony and solidarity. This should be taken care of.
The imprisonment will certainly have negative impacts on family dynamics. Senior members will miss their young ones, not to mention being taken care of, while marital relationship may also be affected. Happy families are the basis of a stable society. So we should not ignore the impact of the imprisonment of these young people and the social problems so incurred. The loss of family harmony or stability will bring about very heavy social costs, which we have already been shouldering since last summer as reconciliation is not easy to come by.
There is a Chinese saying that ‘a prodigal who returns is more precious than gold’. Similarly the parable of the prodigal in the Bible teaches us to treasure the second son who returned after having gone astray. We certainly will not say that the father is unfair to the elder son who had been keeping on the right track.
I would like to borrow a saying to express my feeling, “If I do not love Hong Kong people, I cannot say that I love Hong Kong”.
Question 4: Are there any other areas of concern from the HKAHSS regarding the Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address?
- Correspondence between the local education and curriculum with the ever-changing and unpredictable world trend
Besides responding to social and political atmosphere, the local education and curriculum should also be responding to the global development. Human resources and training are the most important. The Hong Kong government should take discreet action on the curriculum with much boldness, clear direction, innovation and good foresight. Piecemeal reforms will not be helpful.
In 2019, the HKAHSS organized an Education Colloquium titled “Curriculum for the Future”. Invitations were extended to speakers and participants in the education and other sectors such as commercial and legal sector, just to name a few. There were also students who boldly expressed their views in front of the audience. At the same time, we also partnered with the Hong Kong Centre for International Student Assessment at The Chinese University of Hong Kong on a research to collect frontline workers’ views on the implementation of the curriculum reform. From the sharing of speakers in the Colloquium and the research results, we found something in common. A majority of Hong Kong educators agreed that the most important aim of the future secondary curriculum is to improve students’ transversal and transformative competencies as well as generic skills. To strengthen life education and value education, our students should be nurtured to acquire the skills and literacies such as media literacy, critical and innovative thinking for mastery over inter-cultural dynamics, conflict resolution and problem solving.
So who is leading the education reform of Hong Kong?
Aren’t the current changes in education in Hong Kong going against the challenges of the time and the world trend? When our counterparts in the international arena are developing new strategies on nurturing students’ attitude and skills, breaking through curriculum frames and dismantling the examination pressure, what is Hong Kong doing? Also, all these reforms in our counterparts are basically initiated from the frontline, i.e. a bottom-up move from centralization and homogeneity to meeting school-based needs and individuality. On the contrary, it seems that Hong Kong is moving towards the other direction when the government begins to tighten the curriculum, from contents to teaching materials. This will eventually result in centralization and homogeneity. Are the changes in Hong Kong professionally led? Who is really professional?
- Review and revision in university places provisions and admission policy
As mentioned earlier, human resources is crucial to the sustainable development of Hong Kong. Therefore it has been our continuous quest for the increase in university places. It is a pity that the current annual provision of publicly-funded university places for secondary school graduates is only 15,000, which is much lower than our neighouring regions and major cities in China. The keen competition hinges very much on the predominant criteria of the public examination results. At the same time, the core subjects are rather language-loaded and this results in a skewed admission rate inclining towards female students. For those who can fulfil the basic university admission requirements (3322), female students outperform their male counterparts by a wide margin (40% to 25%). Unless the society at large accepts such a phenomenon, there is no reason why the admission criteria and policy should not be changed.
- “Suspending Classes without Suspending Learning”– what has the government done in leading and initiating efforts in this area to promote eLearning and blended learning? What should it really do?
During the school suspension due to the pandemic, the slogan “Suspending classes without suspending learning” is much easier said than done. Despite that, teachers rapidly responded to the challenges and exhausted nearly every means to build up their eLearning platforms to help students sustain effective and meaningful learning. They should be commended for the considerable progress achieved. While students and teachers are in deep water, what has the EDB done in leading through the endeavours? How has it collaborated with schools in the process? Or are the progress and achievements mainly just results of school-based efforts in cutting into the mountains and groping in their own ways?
We have to admit that in the last few years, the government has put in more resources to help schools develop IT in education, which has set a base for ‘Suspending classes without suspending learning’. The resources have helped schools upgrade the IT network, purchase hardware and facilities, and appoint IT staff. Needy students are also subsidized with funds to facilitate their learning through e-platforms. Nonetheless, we cannot help asking whether the resources should only be confined to hardware, equipment and facilities. In our submission in August to the Chief Executive for her preparation of the Policy Address, we stated: ‘The Government should take the leading role to strengthen the connection between secondary schools and different professional bodies in education (including universities and other academic institutes) to match well with the latest curriculum development. It is important to collaborate to create a quality Learning Management System for eLearning which meets Hong Kong’s needs’. Even today, this is still what we think the government should do.
Also while teachers have been engaged in eLearning within a very short period, their IT skills vary. The Government should therefore have more systematic planning and training for teachers’ professional development in this area to familiarize all teachers in Hong Kong with eLearning and make good preparation for blended learning as we are entering a neo-normal stage.
Unfortunately, we indeed regret to note that in the Policy Address, out of the $2 billion set aside in the Quality Education Fund to promote eLearning, $1.3 billion is used to sustain the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Scheme when the support of the Community Care Fund comes to an end. So the resources are still fixated at hardware provisions. There is not a single word on any proactive eLearning plans or strategies.
Question 5: Why did you care to write these two pieces on the Policy Address 2020?
Since my participation in HKAHSS in 1994, I have never adopted a confrontational or antagonistic approach towards the government’s stance and policies. Even when there are differences in opinion, we still maintain very close and harmonious relationship with the government. We just voice our professional views as critical friends for the benefits of our students. We have never made any claims out of private motives such as fighting for welfare terms or better salary package. Our concern is on students’ well-being, their learning, the development of education in Hong Kong and teachers’ professionalism. Our work is all for our students, their development and future.
While faithful words may grate upon the ears, I sincerely hope that what we have voiced should not be taken too lightly or even neglected. They reflect the thoughts of the silent majority in education.
2020年施政報告 – 喃喃自語？自問自答？ (下篇)
- 青年人在大灣區落地生根，組織家庭，回港可能性減少。香港人口增長近年不多於1% 香港，人口更加老化，長遠將帶來社會問題及壓力。
我同意違反法律的人要為自己的行為負責，但在懲罰之餘，教育工作者同時不能放棄教育中的重要元素 – 「愛」。據說，夏丏尊於1921年應教育家經亨頤的邀請，到春暉中學任教，期間研究有關教育的書籍，遇到《Cuore》的日文譯本，他淚流三日讀畢，當頭棒喝，覺得中國教育忽略情感德性。夏丏尊遂將《Cuore》翻譯成為巨著「愛的教育」。
可惜的是，施政報告中，預留20億作電子學習；其中13億是為了延續關愛基金即將結束的「自攜裝置」 （BYOD Bring Your Own Device）計劃；資源仍主要停留在硬件裝置，對這些影響著今天、未來教育具前瞻性的發展項目，隻字未提。